Family comes first for Luke Bryan.
The country superstar, 41, opened up about dealing with tragedy in his personal life in a candid interview Monday with ABC News. Bryan’s brother Chris died in a car accident in 2000, followed by the sudden death of his sister, Kelly, seven years later.
However, it was the death of his brother-in-law, Kelly’s widower Ben Cheshire, in 2014 that really shook up his life — Bryan, along with his wife Caroline, decided to take in the couple‘s three children: son Til, now 16, and college-aged daughters Jordan and Kris.
“We never thought twice about it,” Caroline told Robin Roberts of her and Bryan’s decision. “You know, it was never something that he and I had to sit down and talk about. ‘Should we take this on?’ We just did that.”
The new American Idol judge admitted that going from having two young sons to raising a teenager when Til came to live with the family in Nashville took some getting used to.
“We’re buddies now, though, kinda,” Bryan joked to ABC. “Until he makes me … that’s when I get onto him, I’m like, ‘All right, you’re making me be an adult; don’t make me be an adult!’ ”
As he told PEOPLE in January, “I woke up one day and I’m raising a teen. And it’s a challenge because my main thing with Til is just properly giving the right amount of advice and realizing you’re talking to someone who is becoming an adult. I have to be that parent role where if he does something, he needs to get in trouble, but I want to be a friend to him too.”
The country crooner previously called their blended group “a social experiment” — an “amazing” one, he notes.
“We woke up and had a teenager in our midst, but we love it,” he told PEOPLE last year. “It’s nothing but positive. Til is having a blast and I think he’s finally settled in being in Nashville.”
But Bryan had to make some adjustments as a parent to a teenager, including monitoring social media accounts.
“We’re having to watch grades and watch Instagram and Snapchat and keep him from being on that all day long,” he says. “It’s interesting because he’ll be a boy one minute and he’ll act like a man the next, so you just try to help him make good decisions and study hard and be respectful and try to do your best to raise them right.”
Bryan’s sons, 9-year-old Bo and 7-year-old Tate have learned a few new tricks from Til.
“They learn all the dances from him,” the singer said. “What is it? The Dab and all that. And the Nae Nae. He teaches them all that. They’re out there in the yard doing that when they score a touchdown.”
Bryan sees caring for his nephew and nieces, along with his sons, as a project far more important than anything he can accomplish in music.
“Obviously my nieces and nephew, they didn’t ask for this,” he said in 2015. “Their life was amazing before Caroline and I took a more prominent role, even after losing their mother. Now my focus is trying to do what we can to help them.”
In fact, the “Light It Up” singer said it’s a tricky situation that he considers an honor.
“You don’t want to sound like you love having them so much that you’re glad it’s the situation, but we’re honored to be doing what we feel was the right thing,” Bryan told Billboard in 2015.
Overall, Bryan has tried to keep an upbeat attitude despite tragedy.
“We feel like if we just stay positive through this, maybe we’ll be a positive inspiration for people that had these things happen to ’em,” Bryan told ABC News in 2015. “You just have to plow on and play the hand that’s dealt.”